ROME, July 30, 2016 – Though this story is about one of the most prestigious hotels in the world that is situated at atop the Spanish Steps and beside the Trinita dei Monti in Rome, it has its roots in Switzerland.
The Hassler Hotel is a recognized gem in the hospitality industry because it epitomizes the very word “hospitality.”
The Hassler is the story of two families, Bucher and Wirth, who merged first through marriage in 1887 and later with pioneering entrepreneurial spirit to establish one of the great luxury hotels of the world.
It wasn’t until the latter half of the 18th century that international leisure tourism became a reality. Before that travel was primarily limited to merchants, monks, pilgrims and soldiers. Inns were dirty and run down, roads were rutted and dusty, robbers and highwaymen were behind every bush and tree and innkeepers were notoriously untrustworthy.
Travel for the sake of pleasure was not even a consideration.
In 1841, a man named Thomas Cook operated what became the first tour group in history when he arranged to take 540 people by train from Leicestershire to Loughborough, England, for a temperance meeting 11 miles away.
As the popularity of leisure travel grew, both Cesar Ritz and Franz-Josef Bucher recognized the need to improve accommodations for travelers, and the hospitality industry was born.
Bucher and Ritz were natives of Switzerland who realized that conquering the Alps with reliable transportation combined with clean, comfortable, welcoming hospitality would bring large numbers of visitors to their country.
Among Bucher’s earliest projects was connecting the Lake of Lucerne in Switzerland to an inaccessible ridge overlooking the lake with a magnificent hotel. Bucher also created roads to the property, but his genius was the constructing of a funicular that still operates today to bring travelers from the lake to the hotel.
Later Bucher added a 540-foot open-air elevator from the lake to the crest of the mountain. Completed in 1872, the Hammetschwand Elevator remains the highest exterior elevator in Europe.
In 1887, Bucher’s daughter, Christine, married Heinrich Wirth, who had worked at the Burgenstock Hotel during the summer months.
Soon the Bucher/Wirth marriage evolved into a hotel dynasty, and eventually the new headquarters for the business opened its doors in Rome.
By 1936, Oscar Wirth, the youngest son of Christine and Heinrich, became co-owner of the Hassler. Wirth personally supervised its demolition in 1939, and out of the ashes rose the Phoenix we know today as the Hassler.
Though Oscar Wirth was notoriously shy, over the years he developed a close personal friendship with many of his guests. Soon the Hassler had gained the worldwide reputation it retains today as the favorite destination for heads of state, royal families, celebrities and musicians when staying in Rome.
With such prestigious clientele, Wirth knew the importance of providing the utmost privacy for his distinguished guests while ensuring that they received the best care and attention. It was a combination that has become a tradition at the Hassler, and today every guest receives the same “royal” treatment and attention.
It is that element that makes the Hassler stand out among other luxurious properties.
In 2001, Roberto Enrico Wirth took over as the sole owner of the hotel, purchasing the remaining shares from his brother Peter.
Continuing the family tradition, Roberto is on site at the Hassler every day when he is Rome to guarantee that the hotel operates with the highest level of efficiency and quality while maintaining the standards of excellence that have been its hallmark for 80 years.
Born deaf, Roberto has long advocated for the hearing impaired and deaf-blind children. In 1992 he founded a non-profit organization named after him: www.robertwirthfund.net
The organization provides the children’s parents with psychological support and guidelines to educate their offspring.
Situated just a few steps from the hotel property itself, is Il Palazetto and the International Wine Academy in Rome that Wirth opened in 2002.
He calls Il Palazetto a “temple of wine and food in Italy.”
Overlooking the Spanish Steps, the lovely small palazzo is a gathering spot for people seeking the best of all worlds in Italy.
In the end however, it is not the elegant accommodations, the sumptuousness of the food, the prestige of the wine list or even its stunning setting that makes the Hotel Hassler unique.
Rather it is the dedication and friendliness of the staff, the personal attention shown to each guest and the sensation of being a part of the family tradition that began in Switzerland 14 decades ago.
To ensure that the tradition continues, Roberto’s children, Robertino and Verusckha, are learning their trade at one of the finest hotel schools in Switzerland.
You see, a stay at the Hassler is “Wirth” every minute.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world.
Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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